Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, July 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Acts 26

Sermon Bible CommentarySermon Bible Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-32

Acts 26:0

St. Paul's Defence before Agrippa.


I. What is the central truth of the Christian system. It is a very suggestive fact that Festus had got hold of the kernel of the whole subject, as we see in his conversation with Agrippa, when he said, "Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed: but had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive." Now, this can be accounted for only on the supposition that Paul had given special prominence to the resurrection of Christ. It was, and is in fact, the very keystone of the arch, and everything else depends on it.

II. What is the normal type of the Christian man. It is a man of faith. Paul's faith had a peculiar influence. He was not one of those who seek to divorce religion from life. Nay, rather, his religion was his life, and his life was his religion. The two things interpenetrated each other. Religion was the very atmosphere in which he lived and moved and had his being; and his faith regulated even the minutest details of his conduct. To be a Christian is to have faith in the living personal Saviour, Jesus Christ, and to have that faith itself a living thing pervading the conduct.

III. Observe the gate of entrance into the Christian life. This is illustrated both in Paul and in Agrippa. St. Paul was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. But now look at Agrippa. In Paul's appeal a heavenly vision had been given to him also. He is urged to accept Jesus and His salvation; but he is disobedient, and resists the appeal, either with disdain or with a twinge of conscience which makes him feel that he is doing violence to his better nature. No man becomes a Christian against his will; it is by willing to be so that he becomes a Christian, and it is over this willing that the whole battle of conversion has to be fought. The if he will is the Thermopylæ of the whole conflict, the narrow and intense hinge on which the whole matter turns the gate into the Christian life.

IV. Observe, finally, that short of this gate of entrance, no matter whether we be near or far from it, there is no salvation. "Almost saved," if it be no more, is in the end altogether lost, and that in the most melancholy circumstances.

W. M. Taylor, Paul the Missionary, p. 425.

References: Acts 26:0 W. M. Taylor, The Gospel Miracles, p. 61; J. Natt, Posthumous Sermons, p. 371; Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 1.20; R. L. Browne, Sussex Sermons, p. 127; Sermons for Boys and Girls, p. 200; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 202; vol. xxx., No. 1774; vol. xv., No. 871; C. J. Vaughan, The Church of the First Days, vol. iii., p. 321; Parker, City Temple, vol. iii., p. 217; A. Maclaren, Sermons Preached in Manchester, 1863, p. 180; A. Brookfield, Sermons, p. 168; R. W. Dale, Discourses on Special Occasions, p. 179. Acts 27:1-3 . T. Gasquoine, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 401.Acts 27:1-6 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 60. Acts 27:6 . A. M. Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 184.Acts 27:13 , Acts 27:14 . J. M. Neale, Sermons in a Religious House, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 485.Acts 27:15-26 . T. Gasquoine, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 27. Acts 27:20 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1070; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, p. 71.Acts 27:21 . G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons and Addresses in Marlborough College, p. 28. Acts 27:22 . J. O. Davies, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxi., p. 560.

Verse 8

Acts 26:8

The Resurrection a Fact of History.

I The fact that Christ has risen from the dead is the assumption on which St. Paul builds up all his teaching on the subject of the resurrection. It is true that we should consider more carefully than we are in the habit of doing what is involved in this. There are signs that modern religious thought stands in need of the invigorating influence of the facts on which Christian theology is constructed. St. Paul preached two facts one, the resurrection of Christ in the body, as the firstfruits of the general resurrection of mankind; the other, the spiritual resurrection, as directly connected with the former, as flowing immediately from it. How easy would the Apostle's task comparatively have been, if he had thought it right to conceal the first fact and publish only the second! He would have pleased rather than alienated the intellectual Greek by expounding the miracle of a spiritual resurrection, if he had only consented not to press the physical resurrection of Christ God's power over our bodies as well as souls. The Sadducee would not have interrupted his discourse, but listened on, and smiled to listen to a dream so beautiful. But St. Paul had nothing to consider but truth, and he spoke it to the end.

II. If Christ has not risen, then is your faith vain and our preaching vain. Beware of dreaming that somehow, some day, there will be a change in you from evil to good from restlessness to rest from sorrow to joy while at the same time you hold it as an open question whether Christ rose again. Let us not dream that we can rise out of our dark selves, save by what St. Paul calls in no figure, but as the most literal of facts, "the power of His resurrection."

A. Ainger, Sermons, p. 195.

I. However far back the successive orders in creation may date, however dim and incalculably distant, or however comparatively recent the period of their first issue from the creative influence and however gradual the mode of it nay, however in the course of countless myriads of centuries they may have developed, according to some conjectures from some single, original, and very inferior type still the first production of that original and inferior type was a miracle, for nothing can come out of nothing except by an act, not of combination but of new creation; and the first appearance of that something, however imperfectly organised, was a miracle. It would seem to be an inference from this that for the performance by the Almighty of some transaction hitherto unprecedented, the only condition wanted is a competent necessity, an adequate occasion, a sufficient inducement.

II. With the competency of the occasion comes the special exercise of omnipotence. If the beneficent design of affording a life's happiness to the creature and its progeny was sufficient to evoke the exertion of omnipotence in the creation and animation of a worm, was the authentication of the sublimest hopes of mankind, the confirmation of their belief in Jesus, the revival of their confidence in immortality, was this too small an object to demand, to deserve, to justify, to render probable the employment of almighty power in the reanimation of the Son of God? If the enjoyment of one day's life to a little insect were enough to evoke a miracle in the creation of the ephemeris, was the assurance of immortality to all mankind, the verification of the gospel, and the planting of the foundation-stone of Christianity, was this too little to be worthy of even such a miracle, so vast, stupendous, and august as the resurrection of the Redeemer?

W. H. Brookfield, Sermons, p. 168.

I. Why should it be thought a thing incredible to us that God should raise the dead? If I am God's child, partaker of Divine nature, I have the right to say that the natural, the credible, the probable hypothesis is, that my Father would give me an immortal existence; and if I can say that, then I have the right to remind you that if revivification of the spirit of man be probable, all this mass of historical testimony that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning regains its old value, and that it becomes natural, credible, possible, that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

II. What are the consequences of so momentous a belief as that? Why, first, that we believe Christ's testimony about God, that we have an eternal Father, that He so loved us as to send His only begotten Son to save us from our sins, that He would not that the vilest and weakest should perish, but that all should come to repentance. What is more credible than that message, in sight of the fact that on Easter morning Christ overcame death? Do not let any man mistake. If we let go our hold of this truth, there will necessarily follow a lowering of hope and effort in every direction. If man thinks himself to be no better than a beast, he will live the life of a beast, he will seek the joys of a beast, seeking his happiness merely in sensual gratification. If we are not immortal, how can we sustain heroic effort or prolong sacrifice? And if when we leave our beloved at the edge of the grave we have to pronounce over their insensible remains, "Vale, vale in æternum vale," then I say it is madness to encourage those deep affections of the heart, which then would become a despair and a torment. How shall we escape these terrible consequences? Simply, I believe, by clinging to Him who is the Resurrection and the Life, who has on this blessed Easter day conquered death and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

Bishop Moorhouse, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 273.

References: Acts 26:8 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1067; E. G. Robinson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 250; W. M. Taylor, The Gospel Miracles, p. 61; Acts 26:9 . Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 120. Acts 26:9-11 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 47. Acts 26:14 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 202; Ibid., My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 195.Acts 26:16-20 . Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., No. 1774.

Verse 18

Acts 26:18

For us, as well as for St. Paul, were these words spoken. For us, in these far days, did that vision of exceeding brilliancy appear, which put to shame the light even of the mid-day Eastern sun; and for our sakes, as well as for his, were these words spoken, by which the whole current of his life was changed, and an entirely new future opened out before him. Remember:

I. How light is used elsewhere in the Bible as a symbol and a type of God. From the time when the creative voice of God is heard sounding through the darkness of chaos, from the time when first the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, calling light into existence, down almost to the concluding words of the last page of the Book of Revelation the symbolical meanings and uses of light are scattered broadcast over the sacred page. The words of our text contain, in brief, the history of every man who attains finally to salvation. Born in darkness, it is necessary that a light from heaven should shine into a man's soul before he can be made fit to enter in through the gates into the city, or be worthy to stand in the presence of Almighty God.

II. Though from one point of view man is but a shadow which easily departeth, yet what a foreshadowing of futurity there is in the higher parts of man! What mysterious powers man finds in himself! What lessons are taught us by the marvellous capacities which a man is conscious of as existing within himself from time to time! powers and capacities which he cannot fully understand, and which are not even at all times fully under his control, and yet are possessed of a power and a strength which at times positively startle him. Look at that impalpable thing we call a soul. Without entering on any definition of that mysterious power of existence, we can yet learn many lessons from it. We learn that there is within us, so to speak, an existence which shall live consciously through all the ages of eternity and in this life is now only very partially within our power; but within us there is a spiritual life which can be exalted or debased, conformed more to the image of God or to the image of Satan, according to our behaviour in this world, and the measure of grace given to us, and our use or abuse of that grace. There is an illumination of the heart for which all should crave. There is One, gentle in speech, tender in manner, loving in heart, who has declared Himself the enlightener of all that come to Him. It matters not to what stage of the spiritual life we have yet attained: we all need that light to guide us "ever more and more unto that perfect day." Fear not if that light seem to be long in coming. Let us be ever striving manfully towards that light, and then, though at times storms may beat upon us, yet for us, too, at length there will come the rift in the cloud, and for us at even-time it shall be light.

E. Wilberforce, Penny Pulpit, No. 697.

References: Acts 26:18 . Good Words, vol. iii., pp. 315, 317; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 343.

Verse 19

Acts 26:19

The Heavenly Vision.

I. Note, first, that the heavenly vision shines for us too.

II. The vision of Christ, howsoever perceived, comes demanding obedience.

III. This obedience is in our own power to give or to withhold.

IV. This obedience may, in a moment, revolutionise a life.

A. Maclaren, The Unchanging Christ, p. 236.

Reference: Acts 26:19 . A. Macleod, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 360.

Verses 19-20

Acts 26:19-20

Conversion of St. Paul.

I. The conversion of St. Paul meant that he became convinced of the mission of Jesus Christ. It convinced him of that only, as he says himself, because it pleased God to reveal His Son in him, because he was brought to know that the Son of God was the Lord of his spirit and the Lord of man, and that this Son of God must be that Jesus whom he had rejected as a crucified man.

II. St. Paul's conversion was, as to its law and principle, a typical one, and the circumstances in it which are never likely to recur were designed to fix that which is universal in it more deeply in our minds. Do I mean that we all have need of a conversion such as his was? I can only answer, Wherever there is aversion, there must, I conceive, be conversion. Wherever the eye shrinks from the light, there must be some power to make it turn to the light. If we are not conscious of anything which makes us unwilling to have our deeds made manifest, I cannot admit that unconsciousness as a decisive proof that there is nothing. I rather think that those who are most desirous of truth feel most their inclination to be false, crave most for help against their falsehood. St. Paul's conversion was the joyful recognition of an Almighty Friend whom he had suspected as an enemy, and his conversion created no chasm between his earlier years and his later. It brought into unity years that had seemed to be hopelessly asunder; for now he knew that God had been with him at Tarsus, in his rabbinical studies, in his mental anguish. Periods that he would once have given the world to blot out for ever were overshadowed by a Divine love and forgiveness which made the memory of them precious to him.

III. There was a crisis in St. Paul's life. There may be a crisis in the life of every one of us. But the crisis of a fever does not determine the issue of death or of recovery. And this crisis is only the moment when we yield passively to the death which has been always stealing upon us and threatening to devour us, or put our trust in One who has undergone death that He might deliver us out of the jaws of it. Let the history of St. Paul's conversion teach us that we are to interpret repentance, "Turning to God." It is to have no other sense in our vocabulary.

F. D. Maurice, Sermons, 1st series, p. 157.

References: Acts 26:24 , Acts 26:25 . T. J. Crawford, The Preaching of the Cross, p. 76. Acts 26:25 . Expository Outlines on the New Testament, p. 134; Good Words, vol. iii., pp. 186, 187; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 106; vol. iii., p. 30; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 265.

Verse 26

Acts 26:26

The Publicity of Christianity.

I. This statement, made in reference to a particular case, holds good in regard to the whole doctrine and claim of Christianity. The juggler has his secrets; the crafty man has his darkened rooms; the imposter has his hidden wires and invisible screws; whereas the truly honest teacher conceals himself behind no curtains, mutters no incoherent incantations, but walks openly in the sunny day, and shows his heart alike to the keenest reader and to the simplest child. This is precisely the case with Christianity. We are invited by Christianity to look upon disclosures as open as the sky, and to rest upon assurances which are strong and simple as the rocks. Of Christianity we may say truly, "This thing was not done in a corner." It was not done when men were asleep; it was not huddled up, lest any man should detect a flaw in the process; it was done openly; there was brightness on every side, there was a challenge to every enemy. All this I claim as pointing an argument in support of Christianity.

II. Can any other religion show anything like this in wealth and splendour of publicity? All this publicity is but the practical side of a great argument, and applies to us in this day. Christ does not want any sneaking followers; He calls for courage, simplicity, boldness, emphasis, earnestness of tone. Christianity has a practical as well as a controversial side. Take out of your history, out of your families, out of your own individual lives, all that Christianity has done directly and indirectly, and you exhaust civilisation, you exhaust yourselves. To act, that is preaching. There is an eloquence of behaviour; there is a logic of conduct; there is a high controversy; and men of simple, pure, lustrous character win the victory.

Parker, City Temple, vol. iii., p. 217.

Verse 28

Acts 26:28


I. Some of those hopeful and encouraging indications of character which may be found in a person who, after all, is nothing more than an almost Christian. Thus, (1) There may be a great deal of religious knowledge in such a person. This was evidently the case with Agrippa. He was a man in advance of his age. It was in no spirit of fulsome compliment, we are sure, that Paul gave as a reason for the satisfaction he felt in pleading before such a judge "Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews"; and then appealing to his acquaintance with Jewish theology to certify whether, in believing the possibility of a resurrection, he was doing more than filling up the outline of those hopes and anticipations which their twelve tribes had cherished, from the days of Abraham until that day. And so, also, it may be with us. We may be before many around us in religious intelligence, may be mighty in the Scriptures, deeply read in creeds, exact, sound in all our views of the plan of salvation; and yet, by reason of all this knowledge being unapplied the will not being influenced by it, the affections not purified by it may be no better Christians than Agrippa was. (2) Other qualities of head and heart will easily occur to you as both consistent with, and often specially marking, the religion of an almost Christian such as amicableness of disposition, gentleness of temper, tastes, studies, feelings, tenderness, which, if nothing were told us to the contrary, we should be ready to conclude were hopeful indications of the Christian character. The counterfeit deceives many, and often deceives ourselves.

II. Why is it that people persuaded to go so far in the Christian life cannot be persuaded to go further? The religion of the almost Christian would go further if there were anything of sincerity in such religion as he has already. But there is not. True religion is never worth anything till you come to take some pleasure in it for itself. But this absence of love for God is not the only reason why people are satisfied to remain almost, and not altogether, Christians. There is the predominant love in the heart of something else. Little as he would like to be told it, the almost Christian might with equal truth be designated the almost idolater. The great truth that stands out everywhere in God's Word is that in the future world there are two states, and two states only. We read nothing about a middle condition nothing about a paradise of mediocrity nothing about a heaven for the almost saved. And so if we must fix a value on such a persuasion as Agrippa had, and such a persuasion as, it must be feared, many have with him, it must be this that it had been better for him never to have been persuaded at all.

D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3162.

I. What were the gains of Agrippa? For a few years more he kept the glories to which he clung; he played his part of king on the world's stage, and men bowed to him the crooked hinges of the knee and paid him lip homage, and he sat in the chief place of honour at wearisome feasts, and was the principal figure in hollow court ceremonials and empty pageants of state; and then the play was over and his little day was done, and darkness of night swallowed up all, and he carried nothing away with him when he died (except indeed his sins); neither did his pomp follow him. His gains were not after all so very large, and, such as they were, they did not tarry with him long.

II. But his losses, or rather his loss? He lost himself. He had not gained the whole world only a miserable little fragment of it, and this but for a moment, for a little inch of time; but in the grasping and gaining of this he had made that terrible loss shipwreck of which Christ speaks had lost himself; in other words, had lost all. Whatever our bonds may be, it is worth the while to break them, as in the strength of Christ they can be broken. These mountains of opposition, it is worth while to cry to Him that He would make them plain. It is well worth the while. A few years hence, and it will be with every one of us as it was with King Agrippa not very long after these memorable words were uttered, and then how utterly insignificant, not merely to others but to ourselves, will it be whether we were here in high places or in low, rich or poor, talked about or obscure, whether we trod lonely paths or were grouped in joyful households of love, whether our faces were oftener soiled with tears or drest with smiles. But for us, gathered as we then shall be within the veil, and waiting for the judgment of the great day, one thing shall have attained an awful significance, shall stand out alone, as the final question, the only surviving question of our lives: Were we almost Christ's or altogether? in other words, Were we Christ's or were we not?

R. C. Trench, Sermons, New and Old, p. 11.

I. Agrippa was a king, and must have thought of the state, station, power that he would in all likelihood have to lay down if he took up the religious profession of an obscure, despised, and persecuted sect. He loved the praise of man, and thought of the taunts, the jeers, the neglect he would have to encounter from those with whose views and habits his own had heretofore been congenial. He was a proud man, and he would have to confess that for all his life he had been in the wrong, while the fishermen of Galilee were in the right. He was the friend of Cæsar, and thirty years before it had been most truly, though most insidiously, said, "If thou let this man go thou art not Cæsar's friend!" His kingdom was of this world, and the kingdom of Christ was not. Such thoughts we may imagine passing through his mind with the rapidity of instinct. He counted the cost after his fashion, but it was too great. He never adopted either the profession or the moral practice of a Christian.

II. The case of many of us resembles that of Agrippa. We remain yet to be persuaded altogether, and distinctly to adopt the active practical life which belongs to the designation we profess, and are only almost persuaded to obey the Lord of Truth at all hazards, and to adorn the gospel of charity in all things and through all difficulties. Every rational conviction of the conscience is a visitant from God an angel sent to trouble the pool; and if it be neglected, then both the conviction and the opportunity that has awakened it must be recorded against you. Be sure of this every neglect of such opportunities is trifling with God; and every such trifling will operate to the abatement of His long suffering, till at length the fatal sentence will be pronounced: "He is joined to idols let him alone."

W. H. Brookfield, Sermons, p. 175.

References: Acts 26:28 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 871; R. L. Browne, Sussex Sermons, p. 127; J. Natt, Posthumous Sermons, p. 371; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., pp. 105, 258; vol. v., p. 105.Acts 26:29 . Sermons for Boys and Girls, p. 200; Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., pp. 114, 184.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Acts 26". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/acts-26.html.
Ads FreeProfile